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Bengal: Opinion Divided Over State Govt’s Ban on ‘The Kerala Story’

People’s Reporter |
Some feel the ban may prove beneficial for Right-wingers, while some others say the film’s impact could be dangerous in a polarised society.

Kolkata: Three days ago, the state government banned the screening of controversial film ‘The Kerala Story', citing apprehensions over its law & order problems. However, opinion seems to be divided over the decision.

Notably, the film has stirred a controversy over misrepresentation of facts, which the film’s director admitted in the Kerala High Court and promised to remove it from the film’s teaser.

However, opinion seems to be divided in the state over the decision to ban its screening. The film was released on May 5.

After the ban, in a distant part of East Medinipur, a primary school teacher known to People’s Reporter, who has never entered a movie theatre, downloaded the film and viewed it on his phone. This is just one example of how the ban is playing out across the state.

Since ‘The Kerala Story’ is being criticised as a propaganda film that “defames” Kerala, “is poor on facts” and “fans Islamophobia”, it has many proponents and opponents. The discourse in the state is focussing on numbers, with many people asking why the film’s director, Sudipta Sen, had claimed that number of women from Kerala who has joined ISIS was 32,000 in the film’s teaser while the

Taking a dig at the state government’s decision, film director Anik Dutta, whose film 'Bhobishyater Bhoot' was banned by the administration, said "elections are just knocking on the door. So why leave the possibility of polarising people at this time? It (the ban) is like adding fuel to the fire."

On the other side, artist Shuvaprasanna, who is close to Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, said "every artist should have freedom. Banning this film was not very prudent. It seems that the Chief Minister herself could not see the movie.” He further added that by banning the film, it is being “given importance."

Theatre personality Devesh Chattopadhyay told the media, "If a film or a play seems to have said something wrong, even then a ban on that makes no sense. From what I heard, the film wasn’t doing well. People did not accept it. But now the ban will raise curiosity.”

Theatre and film actor-director Kaushik Sen had an entirely different opinion about the ban. He supported the decision and told the media: "I did not find it (the ban) odd in the context of West Bengal at this time. When discussing history, we must remember how much our surroundings have changed. I now understand that communalism lives deep in the hearts of many of us."

Sen said, "Poor people should not go to see such films, as they are the most affected when there is a violent community conflict. Those who will see this film, the middle-class, is the most communal across religions. They will use social media to spread hatred. But when there is violence, they don't get hurt. It is the poor who suffer."

Students at Jadavpur and Presidency Universities are also divided on the issue. A student of the Bengali department told People’s Reporter that religion had been combined with politics in this film. “Which, in my opinion, is totally unnecessary,” he said. Another student said the film was “meant to propagate a negative idea”, while another student said things that were once banned were now becoming more popular, “so, I think this ban is completely unnecessary.”

There were mixed reactions on social media too. One Devraj Banerjee wrote on Facebook: "Kashmir Files was not banned in West Bengal. There was no need to ban The Kerala Story. People should not be thought of as unintelligent. People can watch and judge.”

Film director Sharan Dutt wrote in his Facebook post that “since the number of missing women in Kerala has been reduced from 32,000 to 3, it has been understood that it is a scam. But how can one judge without seeing a picture, reading a poem, or liRtening to a song? Again, this ban is being used to give fresh air to right-wing political propaganda.”

Meanwhile, despite the ban, a situation arose on Tuesday with the screening of 'The Kerala Story' in a cinema hall in Belur, with some spectators clashing with the police. The film was being screened in a multiplex in Belur for several days despite the state government ban. On Monday, the Chief Minister had announced the ban on the film’s screening.

Many people who had booked advance tickets at this multiplex went to watch the movie that morning, it is reported. When the Belur police stopped them from entering the cinema hall, an argument began, after which a scuffle started. When the audience asked for a refund of the tickets, the multiplex authorities initially refused to give them. Later, the authorities were forced to return the ticket money to the audience. The authorities claimed that no official order to stop the 'The Kerala Story' screening had reached them

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